I was able to sit in on an ETS webinar about the At-Home Edition of the TOEFL.  A few additional details were provided.  They are:

  1.  The test-taker will be recorded for the whole test. 
  2.  Additional countries will be probably be announced later this week.  Update:  the test is available all over the world, except Iran and China.
  3.  Paper score reports are not being sent at this time.
  4.  The score report of the At-Home TOEFL will list “STNRP” followed by the ISO code of the student’s country in the “test center” section.  It will probably also contain the words “Special Home Edition” somewhere.
  5. Notably, the Home Edition of the GRE will not contain any information indicating how the test was taken.
  6. A built-in camera is okay, as long as the computer can be lifted up and rotated to give a view of the whole room.
  7. Food and drink is not allowed.
  8. Religious headgear is okay, but ears must be visible at all times.
  9. AI facial recognition and gaze tracking technology will also be used to prevent cheating.
  10. AI facial recognition is used throughout the test to ensure that the proper person is taking the test.
  11. If ETS discovers that a student is cheating or has broken a rule, the scores will be cancelled.  The student may be banned from taking the test in the future (and other ETS tests).
  12. If the student loses their internet connection during the test the proctor will stop the test and a free retest will be offered (just note that this was TOLD to me, and is not written anywhere as an official policy, so don’t consider it a guarantee).
  13. The free TPO mentioned by ETS is only available in China, and will not be offered to students outside of China.

At the request of students over on Facebook, I’ve been contacting various schools and organizations to ask if they will accept scores from the new “At Home” edition of the TOEFL.  The results of my queries are as follows, but remember that these are totally unofficial.  You should probably confirm with the organizations themselves, as things could change.

Will not accept the scores:

-National Association of Boards of Pharmacy (NABP)

-Washington Physical Therapy Board

-Florida Board of Nursing

-North Carolina Board of Nursing

Will accept the scores:

-Foreign Credentialing Commission on Physical Therapy (FCCPT)

-USC Gould Law School

-Dalhousie University

-Penn Dental Medicine

-VCU School of Dentistry (Virginia Commonwealth University)

-NYU College of Dentistry 

-Arcadia University

-University of Minnesota School of Dentistry

-Tufts School of Dental Medicine

-UIC School of Dentistry 

-University at Buffalo School of Dental Medicine

They don’t know:

-Texas Education Agency (TEA)


According to an email sent to me, the NABP (National Association of Boards of Pharmacy) will not accept the new “At Home” edition of the TOEFL iBT.

Update: the NABP website also mentions that the home edition of the TOEFL will not be accepted:

ETS has closed testing sites and, therefore, the TOEFL iBT is temporarily unavailable to FPGEC candidates. FPGEC does not accept remote proctored exams or “My Best” scores. 

Here’s the content of the email:

Thank you for contacting the National Association of Boards of Pharmacy® (NABP®). The at home version of the Test of English as a Foreign Language Internet-based Test (TOEFL iBT) offered by ETS is NOT accepted by the Foreign Pharmacy Graduate Examination Committee (FPGEC®) program.

While many take the TOEFL iBT as part of admission requirements for universities where they would receive more English training and evaluation over the course of their school program, the FPGEC program cannot rely on such training and instead its requirements are dependent on the integrity of the TOEFL results.

For these reasons, the TOEFL is a high-stakes exam for prospective pharmacists. In accord with our other high-stakes exams, we require a secure testing environment within the United States. Furthermore, NABP does not accept “My Best” scores or scores taken outside of the secure testing center.

Further information on the TOEFL iBT requirements is available in the FPGEC Candidate Application Bulletin.

As promised, ETS will be launching the “TOEFL iBT Special Home Edition” of the test starting March 23.  This version is meant to satisfy students who are unable to visit a test center due to the current COVID-19 pandemic.

As of that date, it will be available in the United States, Canada, Colombia, France, Germany, Italy, Spain, Hong Kong and Macau.  Presumably, other countries will be added in the future.

For more information, visit ETS’s website.

It has the same test questions and the same grading format will be used. It is also the same length. The test will, of course, be taken at home.  Security will be provided by a live proctor from ProctorU who will watch you take the test.  A few rules are worth mentioning here.  They are:

  • Students must use Windows (not Mac OS or Linux)
  • Students must use a laptop or desktop (not a phone or tablet)
  • Students must use a QWERTY keyboard.
  • Headsets or earphones are not allowed.
  • A microphone must be used, but it must not be part of a headset.
  • A camera must be used.  It must be able to move around and give the proctor a 360 degree view of the room.
  • You may not take notes on paper.  You must only take notes on a whiteboard (erasable) or a transparent film (erasable).
  • You must be alone in a room.
  • Your computer must be on a desk with nothing else on the desk.
  • You must sit in a standard chair.
  • You must have a handheld mirror or cellphone (with camera) that you can use to show your computer screen.
  • There are various rules regarding clothing.  Your ears must be visible.
  • There is a ten minute break after the listening section and you must return on time.  No other breaks are allowed.

Before taking the test, students must download and install the ETS Secure Browser and test their equipment with ProctorU.

After that, students should register for the test with ETS , using their regular ETS account.  Make sure to specifically register for the TOEFL iBT Special Home Edition, rather than a test at a test center.  After that you will get an email from ProctorU and must select a time for the test.

If you take the test leave a comment down below and let me know about the experience.


A report on Inside Higher ED  confirms that ETS will soon be launching a version of the TOEFL that students can take from their own home.  The article quotes Srikant Gopal, executive director of the TOEFL program, who says that the new test will be introduced by the end of March in selection locations outside of mainland China that are currently affected by the Coronavirus.  Curiously, the report only indicates that it will be launched within mainland China “as soon as possible.”  

Update:  this has now been confirmed on the ETS website.



A few weeks ago, I recommended a book that will help students improve their ability to read about scientific topics.  Today I want to share a quick review of The Little Book of Big History, which can help students improve their ability to read articles about history.

This book attempts to tell the entire history of the earth in a series of fairly short articles.  What I like about this book is that the articles are just about the same length as the articles in the reading section of the test (about six paragraphs).  Moreover, the language used in the articles is at about the same level as the test.  They seem to have a Flesch Reading East score of about 40 to 50.  That makes them a bit easier than the test, but it is close enough.

The selection of topics is great.  Indeed, I noted a bunch of topics I’d like to use to create my own reading practice tests (not to mention some integrated writing practice questions).  Topics here include things like:

  • Hunter-gatherer technologies
  • The beginning of art
  • Mass extinctions
  • Domesticating animals
  • From barter to money
  • Credit, debt and investment

Depending on how much time you have, I’d recommend just reading five or six of these per day, along with a dictionary to look up unfamiliar words.  Consider keeping a list of new words to study from later.

To use the book most effectively, perhaps skip the first part (which deals with the creation of the universe, and the last two parts (which deal with slightly more modern topics than are used on the TOEFL).

If you do pick up the book leave a comment below and let me know what you think.

ETS seems to be working on a new version of the TOEFL currently called “TOEFL Ladders.”   This new version may be offered alongside the traditional versions of the test (Internet Based and Paper Delivered). Not much is known at this time, but as information becomes available I will add it here.

Currently, some students have been given surveys asking their opinion about “TOEFL Ladders.”  The surveys seem to indicate:

  • It will be taken from home.
  • It will be shorter than the iBT.
  • All scores will be available immediately.
  • It will be cheaper than the iBT.
  • Scoring will not involve humans.
  • Additional score reports will be free.

Of course, all of the above could change.  Or the test might never be introduced.

Overall, the test seems to be somewhat similar to the Duolingo English Test.  If you guys learn anything new, leave a comment below or send me an email.  I’ll update this page as I learn more.


Here is a rough transcript of the description that ETS has sent to some students:

TOEFL Ladders

Overview: Measures the English language proficiency for people seeking admission to an education institution, immigration to an English speaking country, Employment in an English speaking workplace.

How the Test is Taken

Test Sections: The test is taken in ONE session for reading, listening, writing and speaking

Test Format: Reading, listening, writing and speaking are done at a computer.  The test questions are presented at a computer and the test taker types the answers using a keyboard.

Speaking is done by talking into the computer using a headset with a microphone.  During the speaking portion of the test, a webcam will record you while you speak your answer to the first questions. The video recording will be made available to institutions where you send your scores.

The test is conducted and proctored by remote proctors over the Internet.

Where the Test is Taken

At home.

Total Testing Time

Approximately 1.5 hours

Re-Taking the Test

No limitation on the number of times you can take the test.  There is no waiting period required between tests.

Receiving and Sending Scores

Score Availability: Unofficial scores for reading, listening, writing and speaking are available immediately after the test.  Official scores are available three days after the test.

Sending Scores (test taken only once): Scores from the entire test are sent.

Sending Scores (test taken more than once): Two sets of scores are sent to score recipients: a) scores from the test administration of your choice will be sent as usual, b) in addition, MyBest Scores – a combination of your highest section scores for reading, listening, writing and speaking from all the tests you took in the past 3 years will be automatically included in the score report.

Number of Score Reports: Unlimited free score reports. Recipients can be designated at any time.

Scoring Method (speaking and writing): Automated Scoring


Half the price of the TOEFL test you took most recently.




The Princeton Review has updated their TOEFL book to match the 2019 version of the TOEFL and have given it a new name (it used to be called “Cracking the TOEFL”).  Sadly, though, it isn’t a very good book.  It is inaccurate, and it badly needs a good editor.  And some basic research.  I’ll go into detail about what is bad about the book in a moment, but I guess we should start with the good, right? 

The Good Stuff

The book begins with about 170 pages of skill building exercises connected to the “core concepts” of the TOEFL (reading, listening, speaking, writing).  This stuff is pretty good. I really like that the book begins with a whole lot of academic reading practice and questions that students can work through to hone their reading skills.  None of these questions are actually TOEFL questions (which could be confusing) but they are about content contained in TOEFL-style articles.  A lot of students need to really improve their reading skills before they even start looking at real TOEFL questions.

The core concepts stuff about listening is much sparser (9 pages vs 72 pages) but those nine pages are fine.  I can’t help shake the feeling that Princeton Review made this section short just because creating listening content is much more expensive than creating reading content.  Maybe I’m just crazy.

The speaking concepts chapter is a bit weird in that it blends TOEFL speaking questions with questions that are totally not TOEFL speaking questions.  It also includes some of the speaking question styles that were removed from the test last year.  I know this is just skill building stuff, but those should be totally excised from the book and replaced with something a bit more useful.

The writing concepts chapter is, again, a mix of TOEFL and non-TOEFL questions.  It has some fine exercises.  It includes a chart of useful vocabulary (which is nice) and a laughably basic page on grammar terms (which is not nice).

There are better books containing this sort of skill building content (just ask me) but I honestly would recommend these chapters to a student who can find the book for free at a library or something.  They have some value, especially for beginners.

The Bad Stuff

Cracking the Reading Section

The chapter about the reading section is really hard to follow, even for a teacher like myself.  There are ten pages of junk before we can find a list reading question types.  And sadly, the question types listed in the book are just wrong.  So much clarity could have been achieved by using the question type names established by ETS in the “Official Guide to the TOEFL.”  I mean… ETS makes the test so we should follow their lead on this!

For some reason, Princeton Review left out the “Factual Information” question type and the “Rhetorical Purpose” type, combining them into something they call a “Lead Words” question… which is different from a “Vocabulary in Context” question.  To make matters worse, this type is inexplicably renamed “lead word/detail” near the end of the chapter.  They’ve also left the “Fill in a Table” type out of their list, even though such a question appears later in one of their drills! Finally, they’ve added two types, the “Definition” (which, again, is not the same as a vocabulary question) type and the “Before/after” type, which aren’t used on the real test.

There are a few other little inaccuracies in their samples and drills.  For instance, many of the questions lack clear references to paragraph numbers, meaning students have to hunt through the whole reading to find the answer to their question (which is not the case on the real test).  They’ve also failed to end each of the reading sets with a fill-in-a-table question or a summary question.  Each reading set on the real test always ends with one of those.  Just a bit of basic research could have helped the authors avoid these problems.

Cracking the Listening Section

This section is actually okay.  The listening passages and questions are fine.  They are not perfect, but are good enough to be of value.  There are no table questions, though.  And the authors failed to move the questions where a chunk of audio is played to the end of each set.  The latter issue is not a big deal, but it is something that could have been fixed, again, with just a tiny bit of research.

Cracking the Speaking Section

Curiously, this section begins with a ton of additional skill building content.  And a lot of it is very unlike the actual TOEFL.  The book repeatedly refers to a speaking question about how a lecture casts doubt on a reading.  I just don’t know where they got that from.

There are some templates.  They are mediocre.

All of the sample type 2 speaking questions are inaccurate. They tend to lack reasons for the changes being announced in the reading part.  This means that the students in the listening part are mentioning details and responding to details that are not in the reading.  On the real test there is a very strict and close connection between the reading and the listening.  Two reasons are always given in the reading, and the student specifically responds to those two reasons when supporting their opinion.  Again… just reading all ten of the samples from the official iBT books would have informed the authors at Princeton Review of this pattern.

The sample type 3 speaking questions are also inaccurate.  On the real test, the prompt given to the test-taker will be something like:  “Explain CONCEPT using EXAMPLES FROM LECTURE.”  Or some variation.  Basically, the test-taker needs to state what the concept from the reading is, and then needs to just repeat the example (or examples) from the lecture.  Nothing more than that.   In this book, though, the prompts are weirdly specific.  Like:

“The professor discussed the characteristics of two kinds of heart valves. Explain how their characteristics are related to their suitability for younger and older transplant patients.”

Like… huh?  Where did they get that?

Cracking the Writing Section

The template provided for the integrated essay made me want to tear my hair out.  It recommends just two body paragraphs.  It says that the first body paragraph should deal with the first reading point and the contrasting point from the lecture.  The second body paragraph should deal with the second reading point and the contrasting point from the lecture.  And the third point from the reading?   Well, that isn’t mentioned.  The authors seem to be aware that there is always a third reading point and a contrasting lecture point… but they’ve just ignored that in the template.  All of the sample essays include that content… but the template does not.  As I said, an editor is needed.

More evidence than an editor is needed is the fact that instead of providing a step by step guide for constructing each of the essay tasks, this books provides a step by step guide for both, and just jumps back and forth.  WHY?

The book has some good independent essay prompts, but like the authors at Kaplan, they seem to think that only agree/disagree prompts are used.  Again… research is needed.

The Practice Test

There is a single practice test.  It contains the same inaccuracies as the “cracking” chapters, described above.


This isn’t a great book.  I don’t really recommend it.

As I’ve written here in the past, I dream of students who begin to prepare for the TOEFL far in advance of actually taking the test.  A huge problem students have with the TOEFL is that they lack the ability to comprehend academic texts in English.  And by the time they realize this problem, it is far too late to really do anything about it.  All they can do is familiarize themselves with the question styles, learn a few “strategies” and hope for the best.

In my dream world, though, students start preparing for the TOEFL a couple of years in advance.  Or they spend all of their undergraduate years working on their English skills.  If someone reads a non-fiction book a month for four years, they’ll ace the reading section of the TOEFL.  Really.  That person will develop the required comprehension skills and the required vocabulary to do well without using a single “strategy.”  Not only that, but they’ll be totally comfortable reading academic texts (something that even native speakers struggle with).

Anyways, I’ve been working on a list of books I’d recommend to such a student.  A little while ago I wrote about Reading for Thinking. Today I want to write about a fun book called The Science Class You Wish You Had.  This book fits all of my criteria for recommendation:

  • It covers a lot of the same topics used in the TOEFL reading section
  • It is written using language at a similar level to the TOEFL reading section
  • It is divided into chunks somewhat similar in length to the TOEFL reading section

In particular, this book covers scientific topics, and takes a “history of science” approach, which is something that often shows up on the test.  It attempts to introduce readers to the “seven greatest scientific discoveries in history” which are:

  • Gravity and the basic laws of physics
  • The structure of the atom
  • Relativity
  • The Big Bang
  • Evolution
  • The cell and genetics
  • DNA

Each of these gets a chapter, and the chapters are each broken into short essays of about 5 to 10 paragraphs in length.  Obviously that is longer than what you’ll see on the TOEFL, but it is close enough.  This is the sort of book that you might give to a recent high school graduate preparing for their freshman year.  That’s absolutely perfect in terms of difficulty level, as the TOEFL reading passages are generally designed to look like they came from freshman textbooks.

To use your time most efficiently, you may wish to skip the chapter on relativity as that is way more abstract than what you will find on the test… but I’ve always found the most difficult TOEFL reading passages are those that deal with abstract concepts, so maybe just struggle through it.

There ya go.  Read this book.  By the time you finish with it, I’ll have a recommendation that covers history or the social sciences.

TOEFL scores are now available six days after you take the test.  When an American holiday takes place after you take the test, they could be delayed. Note that the detailed PDF score report is available only after 8 days.

To access your score, log in to your account on the ETS website.  Note that there isn’t a particular time of day that the scores are available.  

To confirm the specific date when YOUR score will be reported, consult this chart from ETS.  It lists every test date until the end of 2020, and the date that the scores will be available.